BUFFALO, N.Y.—Testicular cancer is rare, affecting about one of every 250 males, but it is one of the most common malignancies among younger men aged 15 to 44 years. Using data from a large ovarian cancer registry, a research team from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has uncovered a link between testicular cancer and familial ovarian cancer that could be attributable to genetic factors on the X chromosome. The study, “Hereditary association between testicular cancer and familial ovarian cancer: A Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry study,” was published in Cancer Epidemiology.
The Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry at Roswell Park was established in 1981, and contains clinical and epidemiological information from 2,636 families with multiple cases of ovarian cancer. This rare but potentially deadly type of cancer is often diagnosed too late, because its symptoms are vague and often go unnoticed. The overall goal of this registry is to identify all of the genes responsible for ovarian cancer development, so that women who are genetically predisposed to the disease can be identified and monitored carefully.
Using data from the Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry, the Roswell Park investigators took a closer look at the family histories of 34 men with testicular cancer who were in the registry. These men with testicular cancer were more likely than men with other cancers to have a mother or sister with ovarian cancer. None of the men with testicular cancer who were included in the registry had a paternal grandmother with ovarian cancer, lending support to the theory that the genes driving testicular cancer development may be X-linked.
“To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to report such an association between familial ovarian and testicular cancers,” says John Lewis Etter. Etter is a graduate student in the MD/PhD joint degree program at the University at Buffalo whose doctoral work in epidemiology is being done at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center under the advisement of Dr. Kirsten Moysich. “The Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry is the largest registry of familial ovarian cancers of its kind and quite possibly the only resource with a sample size large enough to identify an association between these two types of cancer.”
“Our research group studies trends in epidemiological characteristics among families with multiple cases of ovarian cancer in an effort to better understand the etiology of this disease. We are specifically interested in evaluating the family history of cancer types other than ovarian cancer in these families,” Etter notes. “Given past research by our group and a biological plausibility for an association between ovarian and testicular cancer, we were able to utilize data from the Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry to investigate for such an association.
“The Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry is the largest resource of its kind, containing epidemiological and clinical data collected from over 2,600 families with familial ovarian cancer over the last 35 years. Using data from this unique and valuable resource, we were able to compare relative frequencies of ovarian cancer among mothers of men with testicular cancer and men with non-testicular cancer to observe that men with testicular cancer were more likely to have a mother with ovarian cancer than men with non-testicular cancers.”
Based on the results of this study, the Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry will now include all patients with at least one case of testicular cancer, and will re-contact existing families to update their information. Although more studies are needed to further explore the link between testicular and ovarian cancers, this registry may provide new insight into the etiology and transmission of both cancers, and identify gene targets for prevention and therapy.
“This is particularly interesting given that our research group has recently reported evidence for an X-linked gene that predisposes women to ovarian cancer,” added Moysich, who is the Distinguished Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park and the study’s senior author. “Our research group has begun conducting follow-up studies aimed at better understanding this association, its genetic basis and its potential impact on our understanding, prevention and treatment of these diseases.”
“Despite evidence that the observed association between familial ovarian and testicular cancers may be X-linked, given the absence of ovarian cancer among paternal grandmothers of men with testicular cancer in these families, we are unable to confirm whether this association is indeed X-linked at this time due to limitations in sample size,” Etter remarks. “Our research group is currently in the process of designing studies to further validate these preliminary findings and evaluate the genetic underpinning of the observed association between familial ovarian and testicular cancer.
“The Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is actively recruiting families with cases of both ovarian cancer and testicular cancer. If your family meets these criteria and you are interested in filling out a questionnaire and participating in studies designed to better understand these cancers and their possible association, please contact the Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry by visiting www.ovariancancer.com and filling out the prescreen questionnaire,” he concludes.